New and Old
New seating was designed to generously accommodate 2,500 fans and meet ADA and code requirements. The design also included a new press box for media and coaches, as well as restrooms, concessions, and ticketing pavilion. Landscaping was improved to increase public security.
ERPS’s Memorial Stadium is called Memorial Stadium in order to honor the 38 El Reno students who gave their lives in service to our country in World War II. The field was dedicated in September 1949, and a plaque bearing the names of those thirty-eight young men was put up at the field at that time. We now know of 44 total former ERPS students who meet that criteria and who were honored at the re-dedication of the stadium on October 4, 2019.
For information on the Memorial Stadium Rededication click here.
Biographies of World War II servicemen:
Hubert Austin Ables
Corporal, U.S. Army Air Corps / Forces
Born:January 16, 1919 Died: June 17, 1942
Hubert Austin Ables graduated from El Reno High School in the Class of 1936. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on October 4, 1940. He was in the 7th Material Squadron of the 4th Air Base Group. The 7th Mats, as they were known, provided supplies and performed maintenance on the B-17 bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group, the same B-17 Flying Fortress group which had some of its bombers at Hickman Field in Hawaii during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.
The next day--8 December 1941--the Japanese invaded the Philippine islands, and in the process destroyed many of the 19th Bomb Group’s planes which were also located there at Clark Field. The 7th Mats were subsequently ordered to Bataan with limited supplies and weapons. As the Japanese advanced, the Battle of Bataan commenced, and during that battle, sometime in April of 1942, Corporal Ables was captured by the Japanese. Although the exact date of his capture is seemingly unknown, it was almost certainly on or before April 9, 1942. Due to the circumstances, he was also almost certainly involved in the Bataan Death March, one of the most horrendous things to take place during World War 2 at the hands of the Japanese military, a 65-mile forced march on which many Allied soldiers died--a grueling trip which took on average about five days to complete. Now a prisoner of war (P.O.W.), Corporal Ables was placed in Camp 1 at Cabanatuan 1-2-3, Nueva Province, Luzon, Philippines. Within about two months from his arrival at that P.O.W. camp, Corporal Ables died from malaria on June 17, 1942.
It wasn’t until sometime in October 1949, over seven years after his death (and over four years from the end of World War 2), before Hubert Austin Ables’ body was returned to Oklahoma for re-burial; he is buried at Frisco Cemetery located north-northwest of Yukon, OK.
The attached pictures are Hubert Austin Ables' senior picture as found on the Class of 1936 composite panel in the halls of El Reno High School. An image of a B-17C Flying Fortress bomber, an early version of the formidable four-engine U.S. bomber, at Clark Field before the Japanese attacks. That image is from https://warfarehistorynetwork.
Wade Hampton Allison
Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army
Born: June 1, 1920 and Died: November 13, 1945
After V-E Day on 8 May 1945 ended the war in Europe, and even after World War 2 officially ended on 2 September 1945, when Tec 3 Wade H. Allison was serving in the HQ (Headquarters) Company of the 15th Army, chemical section, he was due to return home from Germany just a few days after 13 November 1945.
But on that fateful day, he was involved in some sort of automobile accident--the exact details which we have yet to ascertain--in Bad Nauheim, Germany, an accident in which he died.
He had attended El Reno High School for just about one year during his senior year. Like so many students did, he withdrew from school early, before graduation, to serve his country.
Although he was born in Kansas, Ralph Everett Bell moved to El Reno with his family when he was just about four years old. He attended El Reno Public Schools from the time he entered school until the end of May 1936, the end of his sophomore year, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Ralph had been very active in sports during his time in school.
Wilmot Donald Bolinger
Aviation Cadet U.S. Army Air Forces
Born: June 14, 1918, and Died October 14, 1942
Wilmot Bolinger was a graduate of El Reno High School class of 1937. He then went on to attend Oklahoma Baptist University for a time. Among the many facts we've uncovered about him, we've learned that he was in the Boy Scouts, played the trumpet, was active in theater and speech, was an intramural wrestler in the heavyweight class, and was an honor student.
Aviation Cadet Bolinger died while at Enid Army Flying School (a.k.a. Woodring Field in Enid, OK) as part of the 474th School Squadron. He died in the crash of a BT-15 trainer aircraft three miles north of Oakwood, OK, on a training flight. He was married to Frances Christene Moore of Shawnee, where he attended college.
After World War 2, the Class of 1945 at OBU in Shawnee, OK, constructed a special memorial--one of the first such in the state--named Gold Star Park on campus. Olsen Hodges and Wilmot Bolinger, both EHS graduates, are among those commemorated there, with their names engraved in that special memorial.
The pictures attached are his senior picture, as found in the 1937 Boomer yearbook, and his service picture as found on the "Gold Star Men" page in the 1946 Boomer-Collegian yearbook which honored those former El Reno Students who had died in World War 2. Pictures of the special memorial at Gold Star Park on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. Photos by Brian Rukes.
Harry Eugene Bradly
Aviation Cadet, U.S. Army Air Forces
Born: December 13, 1922, and Died: January 25, 1943
Harry Bradly only attended El Reno schools through the 7th grade, at which point his family moved to Chicago, IL. He graduated from high school there (in Chicago) at Calumet High School in 1941.
Formerly a cadet master sergeant in the R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) at Calumet High School in Chicago, Aviation Cadet Bradly died in a training accident crash of AT-6C Texan trainer aircraft near Matagorda Island along the coast of Texas. The crash occurred as the result of a "stall/spin" according to records of the incident. He was based at Foster Field, Victoria, TX at the time.
We know of some other activities he was involved in while in school, including being in the acapella choir.
There are still some relatives of Harry Eugene Bradly living in the El Reno area.
The attached pictures are Harry Bradly's senior picture in his ROTC uniform from the 1941 Calumet High School (Chicago, IL) yearbook, and a service picture of A/C Bradly from the 1944 El Reno High School Boomer-Collegian yearbook honoring EHS's "Gold Star Men" who the school knew had died in the war to that point.
Killed in Action in the East China Sea near Okinawa when the ship he was serving on, the destroyer U.S.S. Pringle (DD-477), was struck by a Japanese Kamikaze aircraft. He was last seen trying to rescue other people from his ship and get them into life rafts before he was forever lost to the sea. He was only about 19 years old when he died. He had volunteered for the Navy when he was only 16 years old. In 1945, Dunbar Park in the northwest part of El Reno was renamed Burton Park in his honor. It still bears his name today.
George William Crume’s story has been one of the hardest for us to piece together. His family came to El Reno in 1921. In addition to his family’s time in El Reno proper, they also spent time in the Eureka, Mistletoe (now Maple), and Banner communities around town.
In the fall of 1942, George W. Crume enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to Company A of the 17th Infantry Regiment in the 7th Infantry Division, 10th Army, and went overseas in March 1943. He fought in battles at Attu and at Kiska and in the Marshall Islands and on Leyte.
It was during action on Okinawa on 5 May 1945 that Staff Sergeant Crume was Killed in Action. His body was not returned to El Reno for burial here until late February 1949, almost four years after his death.
Although he survived Pearl Harbor, Marvin Earl Crump would die in military service just a few short months later. On 8 March 1942, as part of the VP-41 Patrol Squadron, he and several other crew members in a PBY-5A Catalina flying boat aircraft died in a takeoff accident into the Columbia River at the Tongue Point naval air station near Astoria, Oregon.
Marvin Crump was long thought to be the first “combat” casualty of World War 2 from El Reno. Captain Gustavus DeLana Funk had died earlier from a heart attack in El Reno, but the first known in-theater military casualty from El Reno was actually Warren Vernon Frazier, whose biography has already been shared. He, however, was in a ship that no one knew what had happened to it until after the war, so at the time he was simply listed as “Missing in Action.” So Marvin Earl Crump was the first known WW2 “combat” death from El Reno at the time, although his death was simply due to an accident while in military service.
For those who might be wondering, Marvin Crump does indeed have ties to the Denny Crump that the rodeo arena in El Reno is named for.
The first attached picture is Marvin Crump’s senior picture from the EHS Class of 1937 composite picture in the halls of El Reno High School. The second attached picture is Marvin Crump’s service picture as seen hanging in the lobby of the American Legion post in El Reno. The third picture, from http://thehistorynetwork.org/
Emmett Wilson Burns Davis
Seaman Second Class U.S. Navy Reserves
Born: February 21, 1919 and Died: October 27, 1944
He was an El Reno High School graduate, a member of the class of 1937 (he is listed as Emmett Wilson Davis). He had attended both grade school and high school at El Reno.
Seaman Burns died in the naval hospital at Twin Falls, Idaho, due to a cerebral hemorrhage/aneurysm. He had enlisted in the Navy just a few months before being stationed at Camp Bennison in Farragut, Idaho. He left behind a wife and a son to mourn his loss, along with many other friends and relatives.
Attached image of "Wilson Davis" is from the 1937 EHS Boomer-Collegian yearbook.
James Rene Duffield
Sgt.U.S. Army Air Forces
Born: January 9, 1919, and Died: August 26, 1945
Sgt. Duffield was a nose gunner in a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy four-engine bomber in World War 2 as part of the 22nd Bomb Group, 33rd Bomb Squadron--his group was known as the 'Red Raiders."
With the war basically over, in late August 1945, a B-24 nicknamed "Round Trip Ticket II" of the 22nd Bomb Group loaded up with extra luggage and about 20 extra men who were seated on wooden benches which had been unusually placed in the large bomb bay of the B-24. The plane then set out on a ferry trip from Clark Field in the Philippines north to Okinawa. When the B-24 landed there, at the Motubu Airdrome, the tire on the right main landing gear of the aircraft blew, causing the bomber to ground loop, careening off the runway, breaking the aircraft in two near the bomb bay (and doing much other significant damage to the aircraft). A number of passengers on board sustained injuries, but Sgt. Duffield was thrown from the aircraft and died. His body was found crushed underneath the wrecked aircraft's #3 engine (the inboard engine on the aircraft's right-hand side). He was the only person who died in the crash, making him the last casualty of the war for the 22nd Bomb Group.
The picture of James Rene Duffield is as a junior at El Reno High School, as found in the 1943 Boomer-Collegian yearbook.
The two other photo show the wreckage of the B-24 "Round Trip Ticket II" at the Motubu Airdrome on Okinawa, the crash which took Sgt. Duffield's life are from the website pacificvictoryroll.com
Lawrence Wilburn Dyche
Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
Born Abt. 1923 and Died: June 16.1944
He was El Reno's only casualty of the war who was in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He was assigned to H&S Company, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
Corporal Dyche died from wounds he received in the battle for Saipan.
Of all the 44 former ERPS students we are honoring, Gordon Arthur Eichor served in the U.S. military perhaps the longest. He was a graduate of El Reno High School in the Class of 1932.
Gordon Arthur Eichor enlisted in the military in 1934 and subsequently served in World War 2. He went on to survive the war, but he continued serving in the military.
His wife, who served as a nurse, was Jane A. Eichor.
M/Sgt. Gordon Eichor passed away from a medical condition in a hospital in Colorado while still in the service in 1948. He had been serving the U.S. Army Medical Department as a medic.
While in training for the service, 2nd Lt. Billy Jack Evans and nine other men perished in a nighttime training accident in Ephrata, Washington, when two B-17Fs of the 395th Bombardment Group, 590th Bomb Squadron (which was a stateside training group) collided on takeoff. 2nd Lt. Evans was a bombardier on one of those planes, stationed in the nose, which burst into flames in the collision.
The two attached pictures are Billy Jack Evan’s senior picture as seen hanging in the halls of El Reno High School in the Class of 1940 composite, and a colorized service photo as found at Evans Cleaners in downtown El Reno.
James Roby Ferguson
Fireman, U.S. Merchant Marines
Born: September 22, 1924 and Died: January 7, 1944
A fireman aboard the merchant ship S.S. Mexican, James Roby Ferguson was lost at sea on his first voyage after completing training when his ship encountered a serious storm four days out to sea from New York City. Roby Ferguson was washed overboard in the storm, the storm also causing considerable damage to the ship, but his body was unable to be recovered due to the severity of the storm. His was the only life lost in the incident.
Roby Ferguson was recognized posthumously as a graduate of the El Reno High School Class of 1944 in May of that year, after perishing earlier in January. He had attended Sacred Heart School before transferring to El Reno Schools for the 5th grade, where he first attended Irving School.
The pictures attached include his senior picture as seen in the EHS Class of 1944 composite picture. This is also his service picture in uniform for the Merchant Marines.
The picture of the S.S. Mexican ship is from the website http://www.navsource.org/archives/12/1217165510.jpg
Leonard L. Flagler
He had attended Chickasha schools originally, but he transferred to El Reno schools as of September 6, 1932.
Served in HQ company, 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion, a part of the 45th Division. This group used howitzers and other anti-tank measures in the war. T/Sgt. Flagler was Killed in Action during the fierce fighting in the German offensive at Anzio beachhead in Italy.
Photos include a senior picture from the EHS Class of 1934 composite picture in the halls of El Reno High School and his service picture as found in the 1946 Boomer Collegian yearbook.
Russell B. Flippen
First Class Carpenter, United States Merchant Marines
Born: August 27, 1917, and Died: September 24, 1942
He perished while serving aboard the merchant ship West Chetac, which was sunk by a German U-boat submarine near British Guiana, which is on the northern coast of South America.
Image from: https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship2206.html
Above picture of R. Flippen is from the memorial page in 1946 El Reno Boomer-Collegian yearbook.
On 2 March 1942, in the Battle of Java, Warren Vernon Frazier was aboard the U.S.S. Pillsbury (DD-227), a destroyer, which was attacked by Japanese cruisers. Two other U.S. ships were lost in the same incident, and their loss was a mystery as there were no surviving U.S. witnesses. It was only after World War 2 had concluded and the Japanese naval logs could be examined that the true fate of these seamen was known. Consequently, F1 Frazier was not declared dead until 1945, and his family did not receive his Purple Heart until May 1946.
Warren Street in El Reno is named in his honor.
The U.S.S. Pillsbury had been in the vicinity of Borneo around the time that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor just four months earlier.
Pictures included are Frazier's Senior picture and one in his uniform provided by his niece Suzie Seits.
An EHS graduate of the Class of 1923, Gustavus DeLana "Gus" Funk (who was named for his grandfather Gustavus DeLana) married a fellow EHS Class of 1923 classmate, Mae Rose Aderhold. The couple had one daughter, Jean Funk, who herself graduated from El Reno High School in 1946, four years after her father's passing.
For a time, Dr. Funk owned the El Reno Sanitarium (the El Reno hospital, one of the first major hospitals in the state). He enlisted in the military and, just about the time he was about to conclude his enlistment, the Army deemed him too important for the impending war effort, so he continued on serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
On February 26, 1942, less than three months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which catapulted the US into the war, Capt. Funk suffered a terminal heart attack at home here in El Reno while on leave. At the time of his death, he was stationed in Lubbock, Texas, performing medical exams on new recruits. He would return to El Reno on the weekends to perform surgery on patients in El Reno. His wife, Rose, was with him when he died. He was the first former El Reno student to die during World War 2.
The attached pictures are Funk's service picture from the 1943 EHS Boomer-Collegian yearbook honoring EHS's "Gold Star Men" to that point in the war and senior picture from the 1923 EHS yearbook. Mae Rose Aderhold's (Gus' future wife) senior picture from the 1923 EHS yearbook. A postcard picture of the El Reno Sanitarium (hospital) that Capt. Funk owned and where he worked for quite some time.
EHS Graduate -- Class of 1938
He perished with the entire crew when their brand new B-17F crashed into the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, just barely hitting the ridge, during a nighttime ferrying flight. The plane was not found until two years later, and the ridge that it crashed into was subsequently named "Bomber Mountain." A memorial has been set up nearby remembering the entire crew, as seen in this picture:
After graduating from EHS, he went on to attend college at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) in Shawnee, Oklahoma, for three years. While there, he played tennis and golf, sang in the University quartet, and was president of the International Relations Club.
Olsen Hodges then enlisted in the Navy Air Corps in September 1941, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and was commissioned an ensign in April 1942.
Assigned to the VP-62 patrol squadron, Ensign Hodges and five others of the eight-man crew in a PBY-5A Catalina flying boat were Killed in Action in a crash in fog in the Aleutian Islands while they were on a routine patrol mission. Their aircraft’s radar had been shot out by a Japanese fighter plane before the plane crashed.
After World War 2, the Class of 1945 at OBU in Shawnee, OK, constructed a special memorial--one of the first such in the state--named Gold Star Park on campus. Olsen Hodges and Wilmot Bolinger, both EHS graduates, are among those commemorated there, with their names engraved in that special memorial.
Melvin Jacks was Killed in Action (K.I.A.) in Germany near the front lines after serving in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) for about 21 months.
The attached pictures are his service picture as found in the 1946 Boomer-Collegian yearbook, his Junior class picture from the 1942 Boomer-Collegian yearbook--he enlisted before graduating from EHS, as we so common back then as our young men wanted to contribute to the war effort--and four photos of a special memorial to him which was erected by the family in El Reno Cemetery. Those four photos are from the website: https://www.
Thomas Gordon Jackson
Staff Sergeant U.S. Army Air Forces
Born: 16 May 1908 and Died: 20 October 1945
Thomas Gordon Jackson was a graduate of EHS, a member of the Class of 1928.
S/Sgt. Jackson was a waist gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, one of nine of our forty-three World War 2 casualties who was in a B-17 bomb group. In fact, Gordon "Zoad" Jackson, as he was also known, was part of perhaps the most famous bomb group in World War 2, the 91st Bombardment Group, 324th Bombardment Squadron, the exact same bomb group and squadron that the famed "Memphis Belle" B-17 was a part of.
On 25 July 1943, the 91st's B-17F "Ritzy Blitz" (serial number 42-29813), which S/Sgt. Jackson and the rest of the 10-man crew were serving in that day, was hit by flak over Hamburg, Germany, on the first Allied mission to bomb that key German city. He survived the incident but was taken in as a POW of the Nazis.
After almost two years in various POW camps, Gordon Jackson was liberated by the Allied forces which literally knocked over the barbed wire fences surrounding the POW camp he was in at the time, to the cheers and excitement of those Allied POWs who had been imprisoned there.
He died in a hospital in Oklahoma City following a brain operation that was considered necessary due in part to the deplorable, difficult conditions he had faced for nearly two years in Nazi prisoner of war (POW) camps. See more below about the circumstances that led to his death.
The image above is his senior picture.
Charles Clark "Sonny" Kegelman
Undoubtedly the most famous of the 44 men we are honoring is Colonel Charles Clark “Sonny” Kegelman. His accolades are extensive and his love for El Reno was real.
The first attached picture is Charles Clark “Sonny” Kegelman’s senior picture as seen in the Class of 1932 class composite picture hanging in the halls of El Reno High School. Sadly, Kegelman’s last name was misspelled.
Billy Laird was a 1940 graduate of El Reno High School.
John Leon Lucus was an EHS Graduate in the Class of 1938.
Served in the 252nd Quartermaster Remount Squadron and was based at Fort Reno for 14 months.
Died from short illness while in service in Italy.
Lt. Lucus was the first Fort Reno soldier to die in World War 2.
(Note that some sources incorrectly state that Lt. Lucus was the first Canadian County resident to die in World War 2; that, however, is an erroneous statement. Several Canadian County residents died in World War 2 prior to 19 April 1944, including one who died on 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor.)
A Lucus Hall was originally built at Fort Reno in 1944 to honor Lt. Lucus. It was later razed along with several other buildings at the Fort.
Subsequently, ERPS’s Lucus Memorial Hall was built in 1967.
John Richard Matthews
1st Lt., United States Army Air Forces
Born: July 16, 1917, and Died: December 13, 1946
John Richard Matthews was a graduate of El Reno High School, a member of the Class of 1934.
During World War 2, 1st Lt. John Richard Matthews was a co-pilot in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber aircraft in the 8th Air Force, 390th Bombardment Group, 568th Bomb Squadron.
On January 23, 1945, mission to bomb the railroad marshaling yards at Nuess, Germany, 1st Lt. Matthews’ B-17G (#43-39013, which was nicknamed “Smiling Jack”) was struck by flak while on its bombing run. The explosion not only wounded Lt. Matthews, but it also killed the pilot--Jack Wangelin--who was seated to Matthews’ left. Although attempts were made by other members of the bomber's crew to get the pilot out of his seat, they were unsuccessful, so his body remained at Matthews’ side for the duration of the flight.
Lt. Matthews had suffered serious head wounds and thus had blood covering his eyes severely inhibiting his ability to see for the rest of the mission. Matthews successfully continued to control the aircraft with the assistance of the aircraft’s top turret gunner/engineer (who had to read the instruments on the aircraft for the somewhat blinded co-pilot). Lt. Matthews safely piloted the crippled B-17 back to their home base in England. For his extraordinary act of courage throughout this incident, Lt. Matthews was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military decoration for valor. His actions contributed to saving the rest of the crew and, much less important, even enabled the continued use of that aircraft for the war effort.
After World War 2 concluded, Lt. Matthews, now serving back home in the United States in the 317th AAFBU, died on 13 December 1946 in the crash of an AT-6F aircraft which he was flying while searching for another downed aircraft. The accident occurred near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but it took quite some time for them to locate the wreckage of his plane in a heavily wooded area.
He is buried in the El Reno Cemetery.
John Matthews’ younger sister, Bonnie Matthews Wilds, is still living in the El Reno area at the time of this writing, December 2018.
The photo of her brother in uniform is from the family’s personal collection. The photo of John Matthews (with his last name misspelled in the picture, sadly) is his EHS graduation picture as seen hanging in the halls of EHS in the Class of 1934 composite panel. The photograph of a B-17 information is of the B-17G “Smiling Jack” itself (in the center of the picture) with other 390th BG ships. That photo is from the website 390th.org
He had attended high school at El Reno High School and was a member of the Central Methodist Church in El Reno.
He was a member of D Company, 383rd Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division, which was nicknamed the "Deadeyes"
Pfc. Miller was killed in Action (K.I.A.) on 20 October 1944, just about two months after first being shipped overseas, on Leyte Island in the Philippines. The fighting in the Battle of Leyte was considered fierce; we do have some interesting detailed records related to the battle and Miller's specific unit. His body was interred at the El Reno Cemetery.
He was an EHS graduate in the Class of 1939. He then attended El Reno Junior College (which was then housed in the basement of EHS, which is now known as the 1st floor of the building). He even took a civilian pilot training course that was offered there, as well.
Miller then enlisted in the military in January 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. He became a P
Robert Edgar Monday, Jr.
Aviation Radioman First Class U.S. Navy
Born: October 6, 1918, and Died: November 11, 1944
ARM1 Robert Edgar Monday, Jr. was present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941, and he even was commended for his bravery that day. His actions that day were pretty amazing, but he did survive the incident.
He was a radioman and gunner on a Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher observation floatplane as part of the VO-1 Squadron that served on the U.S.S. Nevada (BB-36) battleship. On 28 January 1943, he and the plane’s pilot were involved in a landing accident near San Pedro, Island. ARM1 Monday received a head injury in that incident and seemed to have recovered from it. (These landings of these sorts of aircraft were particularly perilous, but observation planes such as this were extremely important to battleships like the U.S.S. Nevada.)However, several months later, ARM1 Monday started having serious complications related to this earlier injury. He underwent minor brain surgery, but it was then determined that more major surgery was going to be necessary. However, he died before that surgery could be performed, and even before his mother could arrive for that surgery.
Robert Edgar Monday, Jr. was an El Reno High School graduate in the Class of 1936. He married Bernice Nadine Oyler on 17 May 1942, and the couple had a son, Coh Rockwell Monday.
The pictures attached include Robert “Bob” Monday’s senior picture as seen in the halls of EHS in the 1936 class composite, his service picture as found in the 1946 EHS Boomer-Collegian yearbook, a picture of the USS South Dakota with Kingfisher floatplanes clearly loaded on it (this was not his ship but it is a battleship and the aircraft are OS2U Kingfishers) from https://ww2db.com/image.php?
In March 1941, he married Marjorie Nickerson from Riverside, California, and the couple had a daughter--who is still living and who shared some information with us--about a year later.
In the military, Sgt. Thomas Howard Morgan served in the 19th Bombardment Group in its Headquarters (HQ) Squadron. The 19th Bomb Group flew B-17s, and Sgt. Morgan was at Bataan when it fell to the Japanese. (He is one of three people we are honoring that had direct ties to the 19th Bombardment Group.) He was captured and almost certainly endured the Bataan Death March. However, he would die from sickness not long afterward in the poor conditions of the Japanese Prisoner of War Camp #3 in the Philippines. His daughter was only 3 ½ months old at the time. At his wife’s request, he was buried in the Philippines in the Manila American Cemetery to help the people of that country remember the great sacrifices that were made on their behalf.
The two attached pictures are Thomas Howard Morgan’s senior picture as found in the EHS Class of 1935 composite picture hanging in the halls of El Reno High School, and his service picture as found in the program for the original dedication of Memorial Stadium on September 29, 1949.
John Forrest “Pat” Moseley married Helen Lucille Hack and had a daughter when he was stationed at Langley Field in Virginia. He later was stationed at Fort Sheridan in Illinois in the coast artillery anti-aircraft but developed cancer which led to his honorable medical discharge from the military in December 1944. He then passed away at a veteran’s hospital in Hines, Illinois, just a few months later, succumbing to cancer. He was buried at Fort Sheridan.
The attached pictures of John Forrest Moseley are from his daughter whom we have had the pleasure to get to know. The one picture shows her with her dad before he passed away.
Harry J. Moss is a member of the El Reno High School graduating Class of 1928. After graduating from EHS, he attended college at Southwestern State Teachers College, now known as Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU).
Harry Moss was very athletic, in particular in baseball. In fact, after high school, he played on El Reno’s semi-pro team for a number of years as a 3rd base utility player and often as a shortstop for a number of seasons. He also played on teams from Pampa, Texas and Amarillo, Texas.
S/Sgt. Moss was an engineer in an early B-17 Flying Fortress (the shark-fin tail version) that was a part of the 19th Bombardment Group, 93rd Bomb Squadron, stationed at Clark Field in Manila, Philippines, arriving there in October 1941. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese next launched an attack on the Philippine Islands, including Clark Field. The early-model B-17 bombers were strafed and bombed while still on the ground, and S/Sgt. Harry J. Moss was taken captive.
After being a prisoner of the Japanese for over three years, since the beginning of the United States’ direct involvement in World War 2, S/Sgt. Harry J. Moss died of pneumonia in a Japanese prisoner of war camp on Honshu Island, the largest and most populous of the islands that make up Japan. The Japanese would surrender less than six months later, ending World War 2.
Also in 1945, in a strange coincidence, S/Sgt. Moss’ younger brother Arthur Moss was stationed at Clark Field, the exact same place that his older brother had been taken captive by the Japanese. Harry Moss’s remains would not be returned to the United States until the year 1949. His funeral, with full military rites, took place in early March 1949 and was officiated by Rev. J.W. Hodges of the El Reno First Baptist Church, where Moss had been a member. Hodges himself had also lost his son in the war, Julius Olsen Hodges, whose biography was shared earlier. The attached picture is Harry
Moss' senior picture as found in the EHS Class of 1928 composite in the halls of EHS.
His dad was the pastor at the El Reno First Presbyterian church.
Cpl. Mowry served as an ambulance attendant in U.S. Army Medical Corps.
He was injured on 18 January 1945 in a troop train accident, but he never fully recovered. He died stateside in an Army hospital after consenting to give blood for a transfusion.
While at EHS, he was involved in various groups, played right halfback on the football team, and most notably served as senior editor of the Boomer-Collegian student newspaper for El Reno High School.
Clarence Pearce, Jr. then went on to attend the University of Oklahoma (OU) at Norman, Oklahoma, and each year while there he served on The Oklahoma Daily student newspaper staff, starting out as a reporter his freshman year and gradually working his way up to senior editor by his senior year. He then received his degree in journalism from OU, graduating with the Class of 1942.
In the military, Pearce served as a combat correspondent for the U.S. Army Air Forces. He earned the Air Medal while in the service. Furthermore, he distinguished himself yet again in organizing the Allied new coverage of the historic D-Day operations in June 1944. For this, he was awarded the Bronze Star, a high military honor.
On 24 March 1945, while in a B-17 bomber which was being used as an observation ship, T/Sgt. Pearce was Killed In Action during an airborne crossing of the Rhine River. Their plane was struck by flak, and everyone except the pilot (who made a successful belly landing with his wing on fire) bailed out of the ship before it crashed. Tragically, however, T/Sgt. Pearce’s parachute failed to open, resulting in his death.
The attached pictures are Clarence Arthur Pearce's senior picture in the EHS Class of 1938 composite picture hanging in the halls of EHS. T/Sgt. Pearce's service picture as found in the 1945 EHS Boomer-Collegian yearbook honoring the Gold Star Men from EHS that they were aware of at that time. Photo of the crash from https://dmairfield.com/Collections/Baldwin%20Collection/images/1945MarchOpVarsity2.jpg. An article was published in Collier's Magazine by a reporter who was in the same B-17 with Pearce and can be found here https://dmairfield.com/Collections/Baldwin%20Collection/19450505_Collier's_Magazine.pdf
Served aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Leopold Was Killed in Action when his destroyer, which was escorting merchant ships, was attacked by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic. It is unknown exactly how he died--in the attack itself, or along with several others who died shortly afterward in life rafts in the horrendous conditions in the North Atlantic. Several men from his ship died from exposure in the life rafts before they could be rescued.
S1 Jack Ridenour had a wife and daughter at the time of his death. Both are still living; his widow is now 92 years old, living in Texas, and I've had the distinct pleasure and honor to interview over the phone.
Comparatively little is known about the life of Clarence Thomas Rider. He attended schools at both Minco and El Reno.
On 28 February 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, HA1 Rider realized that there were 12 men of the Fourth Marine Division who were pinned down, exposed to enemy fire on the battlefield and in need of assistance. Disregarding his own safety, HA1 Rider ran toward them through heavy enemy fire in an attempt to come to their aid and rescue them. Wounded, he was taken aboard the U.S.S. Ozark off the coast of Iwo Jima, but he died the very next day, on 1 March 1945, from the wounds he had received.
Merlyn Dale Rukes
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Born: May 26, 1920, and Died: Jan 3, 1943
Tail gunner on a B-17F Flying Fortress bomber 8th Air Force, 303rd Bomb Group, 358th Bomb Squadron
Killed in Action when his B-17 “Leapin Liz” 41-24526 was hit by flak just after the target area of the Nazi submarine (u-boat) pens at St. Nazaire, France. The plane, having been able to drop its bombs on the port city, had recently been disabled by fighters and was already losing altitude when it was struck by a direct burst of flak and exploded in mid-air. (Dale originally listed as MIA for one year, then updated to "Presumed KIA" one year later.) All ten men on his B-17's crew perished
The attached pictures are as follows: 1) Dale in uniform wearing his Class A service cap 2) Dale in his flight suit during training somewhere stateside in 1942. 3) A picture of "Leapin Liz" on the tarmac at Dow Field.
A member of a large family, he and his siblings participated in their own family band. Luther, better known as Buddy, played a prominent role, being the tallest and oldest boy in the group, and playing the bass drums. His activities and accomplishments in school and life were numerous.
He went on to attend college for a short time, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changed everything. Luther Hendrix Smith, Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces, and his aspiration was to fly and serve his country.
On May 19, 1944, on his first mission as part of the 92nd Bomb Group, 326th Bombardment Squadron, serving as 19-year old co-pilot in a B-17 Flying Fortress, Lt. Smith participated in the bombing of Berlin, the heart of the Third Reich.
The very next day, as his group was taking off for another bombing mission over Nazi-occupied Europe, heavy low-lying fog settled upon his group’s airbase at Podington, England, and tragedy struck. One B-17 on take-off careened off the far end of the runway, crashing not far away, and red warning flares were sent up for the following planes to stop their runs. The next B-17 in line saw the flares, terminated its take-off, turned around, and started heading back down the runway. However, Lt. Smith’s B-17, the very next one in line, apparently did not see the red flares in the heavy fog, so it continued its take-off run and ran straight into the B-17 that had turned around and started heading back. Five tremendous explosions ensued from the three planes involved in this incident, as they were all loaded with large 1000-pound bombs for their mission. In total, twenty-one men, including Lt. Smith, were killed in the incident. A video of the aftermath is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
The day Buddy died, his younger brother Andy enlisted in the U.S. Navy to serve in World War 2. His mother, anxious to not lose another son to the war, kept a candle burning from that day until her younger son came home, about 2 years later. She did not want to become a two-time Gold Star mother.
As of the writing of this brief biography (May 20, 2019, the 75th anniversary of his death), three sisters and one brother of Luther Smith, Jr are still living. They are hoping to attend our rededication ceremonies for Memorial Stadium on October 4, 2019. The B-17 we have visiting and participating in the rededication ceremonies is the same type of plane Buddy gave his life in.
The attached pictures are as follows:
1) Luther Smith, Jr.’s senior picture as hanging in the halls of El Reno High School in the EHS Class of 1941 composite panel.2) Lt. Smith’s service picture from his completion of AIT, wearing his wings, as found in the family’s collection.
Was married to Dorothy Lee
He served in the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He participated in the 6 June 1944 D-Day invasion on Utah Beach, then was wounded in action about a week later. He died from his wounds about a week after he was injured in battle.
Before entering the military, Bion worked on the family farm near El Reno and also as a roughneck in the oilfield industry. After graduating from EHS, he enrolled in the ROTC program at the University of Oklahoma. He also served in the 27th Engineer Training Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for about six months. Then, in November 1941, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bion Taylor enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet. After receiving training, he was sent overseas to England in November 1942.
He was a pilot of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane, serving in the 78th Fighter Group, 84th Fighter Squadron. He perished during a ferrying flight of a P-38 from Portreath, Cornwall, England to Casablanca, Morocco. His aircraft crashed between Cape St. Vincent, Portugal and Casablanca, Morocco in the vicinity of the Gibraltar Strait. (Some sources cite the crash location as being in the Atlantic Ocean, but others call it the Mediterranean Sea.) No body was recovered. 1st Lt. Taylor was originally listed as Missing in Action, but he was later presumed Killed in Action.
The attached pictures are as follows:
1) Bion Taylor's senior picture as seen in the halls of EHS Class of 1934 composite. 2) Bion Taylor's picture in the 1940 University of Oklahoma yearbook while in the U.S. Army ROTC program, as a Captain in Field Artillery 3) Lt. Bion Taylor in his flight suit in the Army Air Corps (image from the family's personal collection) 4) Lt. Bion Taylor in front of an early style Lockheed P-38 Lightning twin-boom fighter plane like that he flew and was lost in (image from the family's personal collection) 5) Bion's mother, Garland Leigh, as seen in the El Reno High School Class of 1908 composite picture (which was assembled using images from the 1908 EHS yearbook) as it hangs in the halls of EHS today
Robert "Bobby" King Townsend
Lt., U.S. Navy Reserves
Born: 24 February 1907 and Died: 2 June 1944
Robert King “Bobby” Townsend was born in El Reno, Oklahoma Territory (before Oklahoma statehood). His mother had arrived here on the day of the Land Run in 1889 and his father later came here in 1891 before they were married. His father was a well-known businessman in town, running a local grocery store.
After his time in El Reno Schools, Robert King Townsend then attended the Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois from about September 1920 until at least some time in 1924.
Starting on March 11, 1941, Robert King Townsend also worked with the El Reno Junior College as an instructor in the pilot training program. The trainings took place at the Henry “Hiney” Bomhoff farm located west of El Reno. Hiney Bomhoff was a pioneer aviator in the state of Oklahoma and served as the first president of the Oklahoma Flying Farmers organization.
Townsend married Marjorie Cook of Oklahoma City in August 1941.
On the date he died, Lt. Townsend was flying a “special official flight” to bring aid to shipwrecked survivors of a British vessel, a task he was instrumental in accomplishing that day before noontime. However, on a return flight in his JRF-5 Grumman Goose flying boat to provide further aid and to assist in the rescue operations, the weather conditions deteriorated. Flying about three hours after sunset in rain and fog, and with his fuel supply near complete exhaustion--meaning a crash was eminent--Lt. Townsend ordered the only other person in his plane, his radioman, Charles Richard Bennett, to bail out of the aircraft, saving his life. Lt. Townsend himself was unable to bail out in time and died in the subsequent crash, fracturing his skull in the process.
The attached service picture of Lt. Robert King "Bobby" Townsend is from EHS's 1946 Boomer-Collegian yearbook tribute to El Reno's Gold Star Men.
Cook's Assistant United States Merchant Marines
Born: July 1, 1910, and Died: October 5, 1946
He is one of four of the original 38 (that Memorial Stadium was originally dedicated to) who actually did NOT die during World War 2, but after. In his case, it was more than 11 months after World War 2 officially ended on 2 September 1945. However, Whitlock did serve in the Merchant Marines from 1941 on, so he definitely served in World War 2.
He served on the S.S. Lane Victory--which is now a museum in San Pedro, California--at some point. He almost certainly was serving on it at the time that whatever caused his death initially happened to him. He died in a hospital near Manila in the Philippine Islands.
The picture that is attached is sadly the best one we have of him, which comes from the original 1949 program for the dedication of Memorial Stadium on September 29, 1949, in conjunction with that Thursday evening's football game. Click here for the link to S.S. Lane Victory museum
Offa Lee Wilson
Water Tender First Class, U.S. Navy
Born: December 28, 1918, and Died: October 26, 1942
Offa Wilson attended El Reno High School. He played right end on the football team.
His Family was from Geary, where he is buried.
WT1 Wilson was Killed in Action (K.I.A.) while serving aboard the U.S. destroyer U.S.S. Porter (DD-356) related to the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. The Porter was struck in a friendly fire incident--really a pure accident--as she was hit by an errant torpedo carried by the TBF Avenger torpedo plane whose crew she was stopping to rescue.
Attached are images of Offa Lee Wilson in his military uniform, as found in the 1943 EHS Boomer-Collegian yearbook honoring him and others who had died in World War 2 to that point, along with an image of the ship he served on, the destroyer U.S.S. Porter, from the website uboat.net
Homer Don Wright
Ship's Cook U.S. Navy
Born: May 29,1915, and Died: June 14, 1944
He graduated from El Reno High School as part of the Class of 1935.
He served as a cook on several vessels in the Navy and was in demand enough that the Navy often designated him to serve special dignitaries or guests stateside when not on a boat/ship.
SC Wright perished, being Killed in Action (K.I.A.) along with the rest of the crew when their submarine, the USS Golet (SS-361)--submarines are known by Navy personnel as boats, even though they have the USS designation--was sunk by the Japanese off the northeast coast of Japan.
Earlier, Homer Don Wright, who often went by Don, married Ardath Adele Gore, and they had a son (who is still living in the El Reno area) who was born just a couple of weeks after Don’s death. Because his ship was a submarine, however, and out at sea, the family did not know until after the war ended exactly which day his boat was lost. Up to that time, Don was listed as Missing in Action (M.I.A.) His wife had seen him off just before he boarded the USS Golet, which was a newly christened boat.
The family still has his Purple Heart and other awards, records, photos, and other information related to his service.
The pictures attached are of him (from the family’s personal collection) and of the submarine that he was lost on, the U.S.S. Golet, from the website submarinememorial.org.
*Servicemen Information from Brian Rukes.
Photos from our builder, Kerr 3 Architects